Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
I have been unable to shake or replicate the feeling I had watching Director Drake Doremus’ Like Crazy at TIFF in the fall of 2011. The intimacy and poignancy of the romance at the heart of that Film, brought to life by future Oscar-nominee Felicity Jones and the late Anton Yelchin, was just as beautiful as it was devastating. And that’s without even mentioning the supporting turn from some up-and-comer named Jennifer Lawrence.
I mention all of this because I had hoped Doremus’ latest Film, Equals (which premiered at last year’s TIFF) would be able to live up to the legacy of Like Crazy. Nicholas Hoult and Kristen Stewart are the two young lovers this time, finding love and romance in a future society where everyone is emotionless. Feelings are linked to a mysterious and deadly disease, so naturally their love causes problems for everyone.
Doremus never has an issue capturing the quiet intimacy held between Hoult and Stewart throughout the Film. Both actors are also quite good at conveying a wild range of emotions. But their romantic arch is not all that compelling, nor are their attempts to not get caught. Sure they mention their fear of catching the disease they refer to as “switch-on syndrome” (SOS for short), but I never felt any urgency from either actor in regards to staying ahead of it. Supporting turns from reliable character actors Guy Pearce and Jacki Weaver are good, but exist mainly to help advance the plot.
Doremus lifts from a few sources to create his hermetically sealed nightmare in Equals, but I feel like he never seems to make the point he wants to. All the pieces are there, including stellar performances from Hoult and Stewart, but the reasons for us to care – much like the feelings of the emotionless dystopic society depicted in the Film – seem to be missing almost entirely.
Search Engine Films release EQUALS in select theatres and on VOD on Friday, July 15, 2016.